"Statements that Lead to Wisdom"

Early in Louise Penny’s latest Chief Inspector Gamache Novel, A Better Man, Gamache reflects on “the four statements that lead to wisdom” that he shares with new officers:

I was wrong.

I’m sorry.

I don’t know.

I need help.

Whether an aspiring or seasoned leader, these four statements apply.

As a new employee it is hard to admit a mistake. It feels like it can jeopardize advancement. But it is far better to seize the initiative and make the commitment to improve. As a leader, perhaps one who should have known better, it may be equally difficult. But misjudgment and errors are inevitable. They are better admitted than discovered.

We have become a culture where “I’m sorry” seems to come easily, but without a willingness to face the consequences. Taking responsibility means accepting consequences and changing your behavior. It is important, however, not to apologize when it isn’t warranted. Women especially struggle with being “sorry” too often.  

During my first presidency I worked with a State Senator, Jane Swift, whom I respected enormously. Although she never arrived without a large black briefing book, she was quick to admit when she didn’t have the information or answer I needed. More importantly, she always followed up in a timely manner. Not knowing is fine, for a time.  

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Help should be freely accepted - and freely given - so that leaders can grow, and the organization can meet its goals.

I never know where I will find a leadership lesson, and I appreciate the fact that this one was from one of my favorite authors. I highly recommend this series for its insights into human nature.

Barbara ViniarComment